Writing Your Work History
Your resume should generally be no more than one page long, but if you have lengthy career history, you can easily use two pages, but be sure to stop at two.
Resumes that exceed two pages are better suited for academic and scientific positions.
Your work history is probably the most critical section of your resume.
It’s where you get to show-off your skills, strengths and accomplishments in much greater detail that you did in your Qualifications Summary.
This is your chance to boast about everything you’ve done in your career, while leaving out all of the dull, boring, and inconsequential parts.
Your work history section will instantly signal your previous track record or past performance to a potential employer. It will highlight your skills, talents, show how long you’ve been working, or how long you’ve been out of work. It will show an employer what you’re best at doing.
It’s here that an employer begins to imagine what you can do for them and if you’ll be able to hold your own in their company. Based on your past experience, they’ll make an assumption and figure out how much training you’ll need, how long it will take to get you up to speed, whether or not you’ll be an asset to the company, and if you’ll be a good fit into their organization. Convince them here and you are certain to get the interview.
By this time, you should have a very good idea of the type of job you are seeking along with the skills that are required to do that job. It’s important you do because as you write your Work History, you’ll want to emphasize the parts of your work experience as it relates to your job objective – the job which you are seeking.
Get started by making a list of every professional job you have ever held and label each one with the dates you worked there. Round off your dates of employment to years only and do not show months. This format is easier to read and preferred by interviewers, not to mention it masks short-term unemployment gaps.
This will be the start of your Work History section and should look similar to this:
2005 – Present, New Media, Chicago, IL – Marketing Manager
- List of accomplishments…
2001 – 2005, IBM, Chicago, IL – Account Manager
- List of accomplishments…
1997 – 2001, New Horizons, Chicago, IL – Marketing Analyst
- List of accomplishments…
List all your jobs, internships, volunteer work, and even short term summer jobs. Don’t worry about employment gaps at this time – we’ll address those later.
If you are a seasoned workforce veteran with 20+ years of experience, for this exercise only, you should only focus on listing your most recent 10-15 years of work experience. You can go back further if you feel it’s necessary and relevant to your job objective.
Under each job, write down everything you did, no matter how small or insignificant the skill or task; write it down. Write down your accomplishments, contributions, recognition awards, achievement awards, and job responsibilities. If you completed the exercise in the previous lesson, Skills and Qualifications Summary, you should already have this list.
Don’t expect to complete this step in your first attempt. As you continue to work through this section and review your past job responsibilities, you’ll keep remembering more and more about the things you did at your past jobs. We’ll soon turn those into powerful achievements.
How to Find and Write Accomplishment Statements
Using the Three Step AR Formula
The key to writing your work history that makes you look like a star begins here. Employers don’t care about your past daily duties, what your job description was or how many skills you possess. They mainly want to know what you accomplished at your last job.
It’s very important that you learn how to recognize your own accomplishments. An accomplishment is not a task, a duty, or a skill, but something you did that helped your employer and has measurable results.
Everyone has accomplishments, but not everyone knows how to find them. In this section, we are going to focus on building your resume using a Chronological Format that focuses on maximizing your experience and accomplishments. Chronological resumes are, by far, the most popular style of resume, but they don’t fit everyone 100% of the time. We’ll discuss functional resumes in Chapter 6.
Now that you have created a list of all your past skills, accomplishments, contributions, recognition awards, achievement awards, and job responsibilities, it’s time to transform these into powerful action statements that highlight and emphasize the results you created or generated for your past employers. Basically, everything you have done that has benefited your employer.
Writing these statements takes time. There is an art to creating achievement statements, but after following my 3-Step AR Formula and reading through the many examples in this guide, you’ll quickly get the idea and be able to create your own powerful achievement statements.
AR Formula – Action you took – Results
- What action did you take to solve a problem?
- What were the results you achieved?
- How did the company benefit from the results of your actions?
Use this simple formula to help create all your achievement statements.
For example, let’s say you worked for an insurance company and were responsible reducing claims management. Instead of saying, “Responsible for claims management accountability.”
- Start your accomplishment with a good action verb, like REDUCED.
- Then tell them specifically what you reduced. Not just claims, but customer claims.
- Then tell them the benefit of your actions, which is how much you reduced the claims, 21%. (Don’t make this number up out, use actual figures.)
- End with how you I did it. By improving management accountability.
When you’re all done, you have a powerful and specific achievement statement like this: “Reduced customer claims 21% by improving claims management accountability.”
If you can’t make fit what you want to say into this formula, then you are probably not writing an achievement statement, but a job description. It is best to minimize the amount of job descriptions on your resume because they carry very little weight with employers.
Job descriptions are statements like:
- “review expense report and approve as appropriate”
- “monitor accounts receivables”
- “responsible for payroll”
- “responsible for meeting minutes”
The key to writing powerful achievement statement is to:
- Put action words, or verbs near the beginning of the statement
- Write what you did to achieve results
- Use proven and measurable results by listing the value of those results
- When quantifying your statements, use your exact figures
- Avoid whole numbers like 100 because they are not as believable
- Instead of writing, “exceeded sales by over 100%”, just be specific with what you did, “exceeded sales by 134%” (Be sure to use accurate figures)